Jurgen Klopp is here to talk facts. Not about another manager, like Rafa Benitez in 2009. But about the Premier League, the ridiculous schedule and the ramifications.
To talk about the fact that Joe Gomez has had surgery on his knee, a victim of a ferociously intense schedule. To talk about how television broadcasters need to use their brains, and why the PFA are letting players down in the three-versus-five substitutions debate.
There are times when Klopp flashes his trademark smile as he sits at the club’s new Kirkby training centre. But November has not been kind to Liverpool’s manager. On the 11th, news reached him of Gomez’s injury. On the 13th came Mohamed Salah’s positive coronavirus test. On the 15th, Jordan Henderson was forced off at half-time for England against Belgium.
Klopp now has a few things he would like to get off his chest, and he sat down with Sportsmail’s Jamie Redknapp to do that. Sportsmail’s Kieran Gill listened in.
Jurgen Klopp (above) spoke with former Liverpool star and Sportsmail’s Jamie Redknapp
Klopp addressed key issues at the start of the season including player welfare and five subs
JURGEN KLOPP: I’m not a big fan of international breaks. You could ask my missus how I look. It’s just a really nervy time. For us, it was not a successful break. We lost players.
JAMIE REDKNAPP: I felt heart-broken for Gomez with his knee injury. I know all too well the pain he is feeling. What is it like to be a manager and receive that phone call?
KLOPP: My English is not good enough to describe exactly what went through my mind. My head physio told me and everybody was sure it was serious immediately. No doubts. No hope it was only a little one. Injuries are part of the deal for players and managers. How they happen is something we are constantly worried about.
With the Virgil van Dijk situation, it was not because of the intensity of the game. It was because of a very strange decision by one person (Jordan Pickford) which made it hard to deal with. With Joey, it was absolutely because of the intensity of the season. That’s something we have to worry about. That’s not an excuse. That’s just an explanation.
Virgil van Dijk will be out for much of the season after a reckless lunge from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford that Klopp branded a ‘very strange decision’ by England’s No 1
Van Dijk’s centre-back partner Joe Gomez is also out with a long-term injury for Liverpool
REDKNAPP: What would your solution be? Five substitutions?
KLOPP: We fought hard for a winter break in the normal season. One week after the season’s most intense period. One week where you don’t have to think about football, don’t have to train, don’t have to get up in the morning and think, ‘How will I play tonight?’ We fought so hard for one week less.
But this now is not a normal season. This now is a season which is four weeks shorter but with the same amount of games. This is a very special time, not only for football but for the whole world. All of us have to dig in and fight hard to get through it. In football, it’s like this. It looks like the whole world changed but the two things which stayed were the fixture list of the Premier League and three subs.
These are the two things we have to talk about. We have to talk to the broadcasters. People need to understand football players. People say: ‘Oh, but they earn this much.’ It’s not about that. They earn that much because they are so special.
There are actors who are brilliant but will never be James Bond. But as a James Bond, you earn more than others. With football, it’s the same. So many people play football and the best of them earn more. But that doesn’t make them more robust for everything in life. On Wednesday we had a meeting between all of the managers and it was so important.
Klopp (left) hopes the Premier League will introduce a rule allowing for five substitutes
REDKNAPP: Did it go well?
KLOPP: Yes. Before the season, some people thought it would be an advantage for us, the people who said we should stick to five substitutions. But it was never — and I can promise you this, I’m a Christian — it was not for one second about having an advantage. All the other countries did it. Italy — Juventus, Inter Milan, they have the biggest squads, but still the other clubs said, ‘We need five subs.’
Yesterday six managers changed their minds. We need it. For the players, not the clubs. December and January in a normal season is brutal. We know that. But this year, for the Champions League and Europa League clubs, October is like December. November is like December. December is still December, then January, then February.
We all agree we want to play, 100 per cent. But it’s little adjustments. We have to vote this afternoon, pretty much. Let’s bring us all together and vote. We need to get the broadcasters round the table. Sky, BT, whoever — they have to talk to us.
Whatever happened before, whatever contracts were signed before, they were signed for a non-Covid period. Wednesday night and Saturday 12.30pm, this should not be possible.
Sports science says you need at least 72 hours to recover. We play before breakfast pretty much when the mind is coming back from whichever country in the world we have been in.
Players’ welfare in a tight schedule has been overlooked according to the Liverpool manager
REDKNAPP: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke out about Manchester United’s schedule. Now you are agreeing with him as an opposing manager. A United and Liverpool manager in agreement!
KLOPP: It’s not about me. It’s not about Liverpool. It’s about player welfare. Nothing else. The problem is if you ask the players, they say, ‘I’m fine!’ Because players — and you were one yourself — always want to play. Always. Until they are injured. They are not the best source.
The PFA should not ask the players, ‘What do you think?’ It’s common sense. The LMA don’t have to ask the managers what we think because the problem is clear. Make the decision. Five or three? The best solution is five. Do it.
If you have two clubs playing in the Champions League on a Wednesday, then they are not in contention for the Saturday 12.30pm. But it’s, ‘Ah, there’s a contract, we need a shareholders meeting’. Why, for such an easy solution? No. We just have to sit together once and do it.
I don’t have a lot of time, but I would take time for that. We have to be strong.
Please, come on, help us. That’s all I’m asking for. We have to sort it now. Again, there are much more important things going on in the world. Much more important. I know that. But you cannot ignore the small problems only because of the bigger ones.
Asked how many teams are in this season’s title race, Klopp smiles and says: ‘Eight.’ He has an idea of serious contenders, with their opponents on Sunday — Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester — surely one of them. Klopp will not name names, but he welcomes an open race.
Klopp admits he cares little for matching Liverpool’s points tally of 99 last season in his quest to retain the Premier League title
Klopp is pictured holding the Premier League title in July (L) and at club’s new training ground
KLOPP: That’s absolutely fine, and that will not change because of five subs or because we don’t play at 12.30pm on a Saturday. An open race? I have no problem with that.
REDKNAPP: The last three Premier League champions had 100, 98 and 99 points. Correct me if I’m wrong but it feels like 85 might win it this year.
KLOPP: Sorry to say this but I couldn’t care less in this moment, Jamie. It doesn’t look like somebody will get 100 or whatever. In this season? Four weeks shorter? Same amount of games? I don’t think it’s possible. Even 87 looks far away.
REDKNAPP: You’re battered and bruised right now, Jurgen. If you held on to the Premier League trophy, how would that compare to last year’s achievement?
KLOPP (laughing): If we were to win it this year it would be a big achievement to be honest. Maybe a bigger one. That’s what I love about the Premier League: there are so many contenders. Our start was not so bad. Yes, we had a special game against Aston Villa (the 7-2 defeat). Maybe we needed that. We’ve used it. Leicester on Sunday. Let’s see.
The Reds’ have suffered surprising results this term already including a 7-2 loss at Aston Villa
REDKNAPP: How difficult is it to work on tactics with your team now, Jurgen? Do you even have time to do that? At Manchester City, you used a 4-2-4.
KLOPP: In possession. Definitely not when out of possession. Oh my God. How long have I been a manager? Twenty years? In the beginning, as manager of Mainz, that was real coaching. That was Sunday game, Monday recovery, Tuesday off, then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday training and Sunday you play again. You could work on everything.
That’s completely different now. We play on three of those training days. That’s why I was so happy with the game against City. Doing it is tricky. Doing it before facing City, you need a team who listen, and they listened. You need a team who trust you and they obviously do. That was nice.
Goodbye Melwood, hello Kirkby. Liverpool moved to their new home this week. Their £50million base even comes equipped with a fully sanded beach volleyball court, while the door to the first-team suite is named in honour of James Milner. Klopp likes how it allows him — and his team — to engage with the future stars of Liverpool Football Club.
KLOPP: It’s very exciting. Yesterday we had three power cuts in training and the managers’ meeting. You know how it is when something is new. But it is outstanding. I haven’t thought about being a player since I became a manager, but this is the first time I’ve thought, ‘Oh, that would have been nice, changing in that dressing room, swimming in that pool’. We didn’t have a pool when I was a player — we had a bath which was 50 years old.
Klopp stands outside Liverpool’s new training ground complex in Kirkby on Tuesday
Klopp is impressed with the facility, claiming the quality throughout is unbelievable
REDKNAPP: Was moving mid-season a difficult decision?
KLOPP: There was no chance for it to be finished in the summer, and we didn’t want to wait until next summer. It fits naturally after two days. When you see the pitches for the first time, you go on your knees. You could stay there for a while because the quality is unbelievable. I’ve told the groundsmen already, ‘That’s the level we will be judging you on from now on’.
Nothing here at Kirkby will be the reason for not being successful in the future. The youth teams can watch our training sessions. That’s not a problem. And it works the other way around, too. Our guys are interested in the whole club, like Milly, like Hendo. They want to stay here forever. Whichever job they have in the future, be it a coach or manager, they are interested. They go over and watch the youth sessions. That gives those kids a massive lift when they see a first-team player next to the pitch. I’m so happy that my team have never forgotten where they came from.
REDKNAPP: Jurgen, this might be an embarrassing question, for me and for you.
KLOPP: Ha ha! I’m excited.
REDKNAPP: What makes you such a great manager?
Klopp developed into one of Europe’s most reputable coaches while at Borussia Dortmund
Surrounded by fans, Klopp holds aloft the Bundesliga title he won with the club in 2012
KLOPP (pauses): Because I have managed to bring really good people together. I like to listen. I like to be interested. I am quite good to then let them grow. That does not make me a great manager but it made me the manager I am today. That is the way. That is the only way I understand.
I’m good at a few things but in all the other things, the men and women who work with me are much better and I’m smart enough to take their advice.
REDKNAPP: It’s the environment you create that strikes me as special.
KLOPP: Honestly, it doesn’t feel that difficult. I could not write a book about how it works but it’s just common sense. Respect the people you work with, support them as much as you can. Then you get the benefit of it. Be a nice person. Why should you behave like an idiot?
Three clubs in my life: Mainz, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool. The Mainz players were maybe not that famous, but it was an incredible group. I was not the reason for it, but I did not disturb it. At Dortmund, the boys were flying. It was not because of me. Maybe the timing was right.
And here at Liverpool, how could I make Hendo, Milly, Van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Bobby Firmino — all of my guys — better people? I cannot do that. I let them be good people…and I kick their butt when they don’t run enough.